‘I didn’t feel like I was part of the school. I didn’t get any help that I needed. I basically felt turned away by the deputy and the headmaster.’
At age 15 Jordan was attending an Anglican independent school as a boarder. Late one night at a school camp Jordan woke up to find a fellow student masturbating close by. The boy ejaculated onto Jordan’s sleeping bag. Jordan tried to ignore the incident and the next morning told a few friends, expecting them to be disgusted by the act. Their reaction was very different, however.
‘By the time I got back to school everyone knew about it and was already asking me questions, calling me names’, Jordan told the Commissioner. ‘It was pretty full on very quickly.’ Jordan became the target of persistent taunting and obscene name-calling by boys across the entire school.
Jordan did not tell his parents about the incident or the subsequent bullying. ‘I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know how to say it.’ After a few weeks he got into a fight with a former friend over bullying text messages. Called before his housemaster to explain, Jordan told the teacher about the incident at the camp. The teacher did not report the abuse, nor was much done to counter the bullying.
Jordan’s parents Kurt and Lisa also spoke to the Commissioner. They noticed a huge change in their son over time. Their outgoing boy became a recluse. ‘Jordan didn’t go out, didn’t make contact with any of his peers’, Kurt remembers. He lost interest in schoolwork and sport. Jordan took to coming home on weekends and shutting himself away.
Jordan’s time at school was becoming intolerable, with bullying happening ‘24/7’. ‘People would just open my door, come in, yell stuff at me, close the door. They had no respect for me anymore.’
Matters came to a head four months after the camp when Jordan was taunted in front of a house meeting of students and teachers. He’d had enough. He walked off the grounds and called his father to warn him he was coming home. After frantic calls to the school Jordan was located and brought back. Kurt and Lisa spoke to him and his housemaster and finally learned the truth about what Jordan had been going through.
The family looked to the school to take action. ‘We were flying blind, we were relying on them to sort this out’, Lisa said. ‘We didn’t want to cook anyone’s goose.’ They had a meeting with the deputy headmaster and the school counsellor. The men assured them the boy who sexually abused Jordan at the camp had been expelled and that there would be an investigation. The deputy did contact the police and ask for advice. Kurt and Lisa learnt later that the police had confirmed the sexual abuse was a crime and recommended it be formally reported. The school ignored this advice.
Jordan’s life at school did not improve. His parents are furious with the way the matter was handled. ‘I’d have thought if something like this has happened the headmaster would be on the phone saying this is what has occurred and this is how we are looking after your son, but that didn’t happen.’
Kurt and Lisa demanded a meeting with the headmaster. They found him defensive and more concerned with the school’s reputation than with Jordan. He even suggested Jordan was partly to blame because he hadn’t reported the matter. Kurt was blunt. ‘We’re finding out about this after the whole school community knew about it, but you’re telling us you didn’t know?’
Jordan stopped boarding and enrolled at a Catholic independent school. His experience there for two years was very different. ‘They really did such a wonderful job with him from the first meeting’, Lisa recalls. ‘It was all about Jordan. The first thing they said to him was, “Jeez mate, you’ve had a tough time”.’
Rumours about Jordan reached the other students, but there was no tolerance for bullying. ‘They addressed the situation immediately’, Jordan remembers. ‘They established solutions before I even got to the school.’
Jordan found a good school counsellor, and managed to complete his final exams. Trust remains his biggest issue, having been neglected by his carers at school and betrayed by peers he considered his friends. ‘That’s what changed in Jordan’, his mother says. ‘Where is the loyalty? How do you trust people or know the value of friendship? The only people that he relies on are us now.’
‘He can come across as very confident, but the confident Jordan is not the real guy.’